Medical malpractice law is highly specialized and is subject to legal principles and rules of procedure that differ from other areas of the law. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice/negligence, it is imperative that you consult an attorney with specialized knowledge in this complex field of law so that you can be advised as to whether you have a case and if so how to proceed.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as a negligent act or omission by a medical professional that results in personal injury to a patient. It is not limited to medical doctors but also applies to nurses/dentists/osteopaths/health care facilities (problems with medication, hygiene or treatment) and health care services, such as nursing homes for example.
Negligence occurs when a medical professional’s actions do not meet the accepted standards of practice. Negligence would include errors in the following stages of health care:
- Incorrectly diagnosing or misdiagnosing a condition;
- Delaying the diagnosis, resulting in a less favourable or unfortunate outcome;
- Reporting incorrectly on test results.
- Performing surgery without the proper care and skill;
- Providing post operative care without the proper attention and skill;
- Failing to provide the appropriate referral for the condition;
- Treating the condition inappropriately.
- Providing insufficient warning, or no warning at all of the risks associated with a procedure or treatment;
- Failing to inform the patient of alternative treatments or procedures.
Patients are required to sign consent forms before undergoing procedures/operations. “Informed Consent” means that a medical provider has thoroughly informed a patient about all the inherent risks, benefits and alternatives involved in any surgical or medical procedure or treatment, and that the patient has duly given their written consent to proceed with the treatment.
Should a medical practitioner act carelessly/negligently during that operation, however, they can be sued for medical malpractice/negligence. An example of carelessness might be neglecting an infection arising from a minor operation, leading to the patient’s death or severely compromised health. In such a case, the patient would be within their rights to file a medical malpractice claim.
Common medical negligence claims:
Below is a list of common examples where medical negligence may arise:
- The inappropriate intervention to address complications of labour and birth;
- Prescription errors;
- Hospital/emergency room negligence;
- Treatment delays;
- Misread x-rays/mammograms;
- Negligence in diagnosing/treating breast cancer;
- Plastic surgery malpractice;
- Dental malpractice;
- Paediatric malpractice;
- Anaesthesia malpractice;
- Faulty blood transfusions;
- Amputation of the wrong limb;
- Removal of incorrect organ.
If you believe you are a victim of medical negligence, you have the right to look at your own medical records, charts and information. These records can also help you to build a solid case.
Seeking legal advice
You need to determine what outcome you are seeking from pursuing your medical malpractice case, as they are often lengthy and costly.If you merely wish to complain it would be best to consult the HPCSA (The Health Professions Council of South Africa).
If you seek financial restitution, contact one of DSC Attorneys’ experienced and professional medical negligence attorneys.